Using Census Data to Examine Changes in Wellbeing for Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and Niuean Households

By Cotterell, Gerard; von Randow, Martin et al. | Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Using Census Data to Examine Changes in Wellbeing for Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and Niuean Households


Cotterell, Gerard, von Randow, Martin, McTaggart, Stephen, Social Policy Journal of New Zealand


Abstract

In recent years a number of publications have examined changes in wellbeing for the overall population in New Zealand. These reports have each made a contribution to understanding the impacts on and changes within different population groups in the past 20 or so years. However, primarily due to data constraints, relatively little analysis of the impact of these changes has been done on specific sub-groups of the population. This paper demonstrates how Census data can be used to examine changes in wellbeing for population sub-groups. It uses indicators derived from Census data to describe changes in wellbeing for Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and Niuean households of different types over the period 1981--2006.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years a number of publications have examined changes in wellbeing for the overall population in New Zealand (Krishnan and Jensen 2005, Ministry of Social Development 2007, 2008, Cotterell et al. 2008, Quality of Life Team 2003, 2007, Perry 2008, Podder and Chatterjee 1998). These reports have each made a contribution to our understanding of various social, cultural and economic impacts on different groups in the population as a result of the changes that have occurred in the past 20 or so years.

However, primarily due to data constraints, relatively little analysis of the impact of these changes has been done on specific sub-groups of the population. This paper demonstrates how Census data can be used to examine changes in wellbeing for population sub-groups. It uses indicators derived from the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings to describe changes in wellbeing for Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and Niuean households over the period 1981--2006.

The paper begins by is discussing the issues associated with ascribing ethnicity to a household, before briefly detailing the use of Census data and the construction of wellbeing indicators. The substantive part of the paper then discusses the changes in wellbeing for Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan and Niuean households of different types, in the domains of income, employment and housing, over the 1981--2006 period. The paper concludes with a discussion of the results.

The intent of the paper is to demonstrate that differences do exist in the levels of wellbeing experienced by Pacific households of different ethnicities. The paper also provides a framework for measuring the wellbeing of sub-groups of the population that researchers can utilise for future research, and establishes a baseline of information from which researchers can draw as they conduct more detailed research. We hope the information presented here provokes further interest and examination by subject matter experts on different aspects of the information supplied.

ASCRIBING ETHNICITY TO A HOUSEHOLD

One of the primary aims of this paper is to investigate changes in wellbeing for what we have labelled "Samoan", "Cook Island", "Tongan" and "Niuean" households. There are two preliminary issues associated with such a task. The first task involves the development of a method for ascribing a "general" Pacific ethnicity to a household. The second task involves ascribing a particular/specific Pacific ethnicity to a particular household. These issues are discussed in turn.

The issue of how to identify family and, by association, household ethnicity has provoked considerable discussion among academics and analysts in New Zealand (for example, see Rochford 1996, Callister 2006, Callister et al. 2007, 2008). Can a Pacific family be "categorised" as one where one of the adults identifies as Pacific, or only where both adults identify as Pacific; or is it one where a majority of the family members identify as Pacific, or one where any one member of the family identifies as Pacific? Furthermore, given that ethnicity is identified as a personal trait (Statistics New Zealand 2004), can we even meaningfully identify the ethnicity of a household? …

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